Often deemed a ‘silent killer’, high levels of cholesterol can, worryingly, display no obvious symptoms. Indeed, the only way to accurately maintain and monitor cholesterol in the body is by means of a blood test. However, this can be confusing to many of us; high levels of cholesterol are bad, yet we need it to build healthy cells! So, what exactly does that mean?
• Low-density Lipoprotein (LDL) – This is known as ‘bad’ cholesterol. LDL transports cholesterol particles throughout the body. LDL builds up in the walls of the arteries making them hard and narrow.
• High-density Lipoprotein (HDL) – Known as ‘good’ cholesterol, HDL picks up excess cholesterol and transports it back to the liver, where it is removed from the body.
So, not only do we need to keep ‘bad cholesterol’ at a minimum, but we also need to keep our ‘good cholesterol’ at the optimum level to rid our bodies of its harmful effects. This is because high levels of LDL cholesterol puts us at risk of developing future health complications. Defined as a waxy substance that is found in the blood, high levels of cholesterol can lead to a build-up of fatty deposits (atherosclerosis) in the blood vessels which can then grow, making it difficult for enough blood to flow through the arteries. Sometimes these deposits/plaques can break or rupture suddenly and cause a clot that results in a heart attack or a stroke. Our risk of developing coronary heart disease also rises as our blood's cholesterol level increases, which can lead to chest pain (angina) and other detrimental symptoms of coronary artery disease.
High cholesterol levels can be genetic but are often a result of unhealthy lifestyle choices. This means it can often be prevented and treated by simply eating a healthy diet and partaking in regular exercise. However, because there are often no immediate symptoms, the only way to determine whether cholesterol levels exceed those within the normal (healthy) range is by performing a blood test. Fortunately, it is now possible to do this conveniently and comfortably in your own home, see our tips to lower cholesterol naturally:
Certain factors put us at greater risk of developing high/unhealthy levels of cholesterol:
- Poor diet – eating saturated fats found in animal products, such as red/fatty meat & dairy products, as well as trans fats (hydrogenated fats) and processed foods will increase LDL cholesterol.
- Obesity – having a BMI of more than 30 is likely to result in a spike of LDL cholesterol and result in dangerously high levels. It also reduces HDL cholesterol.
- Lack of exercise – exercise boosts HDL cholesterol and increases the size of the particles that make up LDL, making them less harmful.
- Smoking - Smoking damages the walls of the blood vessels, making them more prone to accumulate fatty deposits. Smoking may also reduce your levels of HDL cholesterol.
- Age – The risk of high cholesterol increases as we age because the liver’s ability to remove LDL cholesterol reduces as we grow older.
- Diabetes – high blood sugar contributes to a higher level of dangerous cholesterol called very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) and reduces HDL cholesterol.
- High blood pressure – this may occur as a result of unhealthy lifestyle choices or it could be genetic; whatever the cause, it can also contribute to high levels of LDL cholesterol. It is important to keep track of blood pressure using a monitor
There are a number of ways in which we can reduce our risk of developing high cholesterol and, indeed, decrease existing elevated levels:
- Healthy diet – it is important to eat a diet low in slat and rich in fruit, vegetables, and wholegrains. Other HDL friendly foods include fatty fish, nuts, avocado, and beans/legumes. Limit the amount of animal fats you eat and use good fats on moderation.
- Maintain a healthy weight - lose extra pounds and maintain a healthy body weight. You can monitor your weight and BMI using a good quality bathroom scale
- Quit smoking
- Exercise regularly - for approximately 30 minutes per day. Browse our range of exercise equipment here: https://www.stressnomore.co.uk/well-being/exercise-and-rehab/exercise-equipment.html
- Manage stress - There are many methods/products that have been shown to alleviates symptoms of stress, worry & anxiety. Browse our Stress and Anxiety Relief range
- Reduce alcohol intake
Please Note: If you have consistently elevated levels of cholesterol, please discuss with your doctor to determine whether medication is required in combination with the above.